Painted by the self-taught miniaturist Gervase Spencer,[1] this portrait shows a lady wearing the latest fashionable ‘country’ dress. This consisted of a lace cap with a wide-brimmed hat worn over it – similar dress can be seen, for example, in the group portrait (or ‘conversation piece’) dating to the early 1740s of Samuel Richardson, the Novelist (1684-1761), Seated, Surrounded by his Second Family, by Francis Hayman (1708-1776) [Tate T12221]. Spencer appears to have been well aware of developments and fashions in oil portraiture; including the new small scale conversation pieces painted in countryside settings by artists such as Arthur Devis (1711-1787) and William Hogarth (1697-1764).

Spencer certainly married, although it is now known when or to whom, for on his death his possessions were inherited by a daughter, who later sold her father’s studio contents, including a now-lost portrait of ‘Mrs. Spencer’. Although he was himself self-taught, Spencer apprenticed other artists to him, including the miniaturist Penelope Carwardine (noted...

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Painted by the self-taught miniaturist Gervase Spencer,[1] this portrait shows a lady wearing the latest fashionable ‘country’ dress. This consisted of a lace cap with a wide-brimmed hat worn over it – similar dress can be seen, for example, in the group portrait (or ‘conversation piece’) dating to the early 1740s of Samuel Richardson, the Novelist (1684-1761), Seated, Surrounded by his Second Family, by Francis Hayman (1708-1776) [Tate T12221]. Spencer appears to have been well aware of developments and fashions in oil portraiture; including the new small scale conversation pieces painted in countryside settings by artists such as Arthur Devis (1711-1787) and William Hogarth (1697-1764).

Spencer certainly married, although it is now known when or to whom, for on his death his possessions were inherited by a daughter, who later sold her father’s studio contents, including a now-lost portrait of ‘Mrs. Spencer’. Although he was himself self-taught, Spencer apprenticed other artists to him, including the miniaturist Penelope Carwardine (noted by Joseph Farington in his diary).

[1] Edwards had noted the apprenticeship system used by other successful miniaturists but stated;

'Although the author was acquainted with this artist, yet he knows not who was his master' (E. Edwards, Anecdotes of painters (1808), 287–8)

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500 Years of British Art